Case study: Communicating to success

Green fingers

When an SMB-sized gardening service provider with 28 active users sought to change its server architecture with minimal disruption, it turned to its trusted reseller, Calvert Technologies, to do the job.

While there are only 28 users of the network, the customer had 50-60 staff providing grounds keeping and horticultural services to Government bodies which also need to be factored in.

“We’ve been looking after the client for four years now,” managing director, Dean Calvert, said. “Our business has grown through referrals more than anything else. The organisation looking after core infrastructure wasn’t doing a good job, so the customer’s CRM provider recommended us.”

Defending against competition

Despite Calvert’s knowledge of the network and experience with the customer, rival resellers were keen to snap up the new server opportunity and one put forth a strong and tempting deal.

“The other company had been presenting a hosted exchange model with a mixture of on- and off-premise servers,” Calvert said. “Because we were the incumbent, the client said it was looking at another solution and talked about aspects of it.”

The rival’s downfall came thanks to a major oversight that only became clear after Calvert’s detailed discussions with the client.

“The business had relocated and it only had ADSL1 – it could not get ADSL 2+ where it was, so having anything located in the cloud wasn’t doable,” he said. “It just didn’t make sense and the other provider had really messed up because it forgot to do the homework.

“I told the client that hosted exchange was very good for a number of businesses and showed them why it wasn’t right for this case.”

Calvert said it also offered an entirely HP-based, solution whereas the competitor had a hybrid of Lenovo and HP product. He claimed having a single vendor solution was a tidier in terms of warranty management and drivers. Simple language

According to Calvert, his team’s no-nonsense approach to explaining the corporate implications of technology to clients was vital to landing long-term deals. Once clients understood what the solution will do, it became easier to take the plunge, he claimed.

“Quite often, you’ll get IT providers that get excited about the technology and forget about how useful it will be for the client’s environment,” he said. “I break it down and explain how it’ll make sense for the business based on their needs.

“You should never take the approach some IT people do of bamboozling the client with techno-jargon so they think the provider is really smart and become intimidated enough to sign a deal.”

Major complications

Calvert chose an HP ProLiant DL380 Generation 6 server for the job and used HP equipment throughout the implementation.

“We put in a new system using virtualisation and remote desktop services. Seventeen of the users are on laptops because they’re always out and about, while the rest are on remote desktop thin client devices,” Calvert said. Despite the straightforward nature of the server implementation, a major complication with the third-party delivering the client’s CRM migration slowed the process down dramatically, Calvert claimed. Well-laid plans were soon delayed and the customer grew increasingly frustrated as the final completion date slipped by five months from December to April.

“The client was delayed getting software licences and we had to set-up meeting times to do extra database changes,” he said. “Its internal communications weren’t right and it took a long time to organise the upgrade licences. We would speak to one person in the organisation who would do some work, then we’d talk to another person who would ask us questions they would’ve known the answer to if they’d talked internally.”

Lessons learned

For Calvert, the lesson learned was to always make sure a series of structures are in place for third-party resellers.

“You need to make sure you’re communicating as clearly as possible,” he said. “Working with third parties always adds to the complexity but it doesn’t always make it worse.

“We would ask this company a question and it would answer through the client rather than communicate to us directly. We would want a single point of contact and to make sure that everything is documented through the process and planned properly.”

Fortunately, Calvert said his clear and simple explanations ensured the client was kept in the loop at all times.

“The client was happy with our communications and it knew the other party was letting it down. There was zero dissatisfaction with us,” he said. “It hasn’t had business downtime or a loss of operations or money. We used Microsoft migration methods to go from one SBS [Small Business] server to another without disruption.

“There’s also the ‘Swing Method’ developed by Jeff Middleton, which is a process of migrating servers with minimal downtime and the investment of time and dollars is well worth doing so you can deliver a great customer experience.

“You have to make sure it’s as easy, simple and pain free for the users. The technology itself is the simple part at the end of the day.”